Thursday, June 6, 2013

Excerpt 8 -- A town with a dark secret

Today is an excerpt from one of my favorite stories, The Dark Secret of Warren House. This story was originally published in Dark Recesses in 2007. I also released it as a single on Amazon last autumn, and it briefly made it as high as #2 on the promotional list for horror. Now, it's part of my collection, THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES -- and that entire collection is on sale now for just 99 cents.

And now, from The Dark Secret of Warren House.


“This doesn’t feel right,” Marcia said.

“Oh, come on Marcia. It must be some sort of initiation. Let’s play along.”

She didn’t move, so Kevin squeezed by and continued, pulling Marcia along.

The air grew cooler and damp. Somewhere ahead water dripped.

“Kevin, let’s go back.”

“No, look,” he said. Marcia peered around him. The light was brighter, much brighter. “Come on, that’s where everyone must be.”

Kevin walked faster. Marcia struggled to keep up. They reached the end of the corridor. Kevin entered a massive round room, its walls arching into a doom-shaped ceiling. The room seemed as big as the entire first floor of the house. Marcia stepped in behind him, then gasped.

Along the wall, ringing the entire room, were a series of alcoves, a torch mounted above each.

“Damn,” he whispered.

Marcia tried to pull him from the room, but Kevin held firm, then moved to the first alcove. Inside was what appeared to have been a body, sunken in on itself, as if the insides had dried up. Its hair was shoulder length, held in place by a rotting headband. A thick mustache hid most of its mouth.

“This is one of the guys I saw upstairs, dressed like a sixties reject. I thought it was a costume.”

Marcia stepped beside him. “I saw him, too,” she said, voice trembling. “Come on Kevin, we have to get out of here.”

The man’s skin, what was visible, was laced with cracks, the body enveloped by gray tentacle-like growths protruding from the alcove’s walls. Some of the growths wrapped around the body, holding it in place. Other clear tentacles had grown right through the skin. Kevin leaned into the alcove. A dark, thick fluid moved, slowly, through the clear tentacles, from the body toward the walls.

Kevin stepped back, grasped Marcia’s hand. She shivered. They moved to the next alcove. Another body, this one in worse shape. Kevin recognized a tattered frock coat. A top hat rested in the alcove, next to the man. This body was nearly flat, its skin as dry as the parchment on which Kevin’s Yuletide invitation had been written.

In the next alcove he recognized the long coat of the Revolutionary War era man, though no color remained. The body was papery thin, the tentacles brown and dry. Kevin reached into the alcove, touched the body. It crumbled.

“Dear god,” Marcia cried.

Kevin looked at her. She was pointing to the next alcove.

There, Kevin saw, sat Lucy Adams. Her face was drawn and pale, eyes staring vacantly. Blood dripped from a dozen different entry wounds where tentacles invaded her body. Kevin reached into the alcove, fingers brushing Lucy’s face, when a tentacle stabbed from the shadows, slicing into his forearm.

Kevin yanked his hand away. The tentacle stretched and then snapped, a sliver still in his arm.

“Get it out,” he screamed, clawing at this skin. “My knife,” he gasped.

“What?” Marcia asked.

“Knife … in my right pocket,” he said through clenched teeth. He continued scratching, peeling the skin away from the wound. Marcia slipped her hand in his pocket, withdrew a small pocketknife, then opened it.

“Now what?”

“Cut it out!” he screamed.

“Wha… I can’t do that.”

Kevin grabbed the knife and sliced around the wound. The tentacle was longer now, growing from his arm. Kevin slashed deep into the skin, cutting under the tentacle, like a surgeon removing a tumor. A chunk of flesh, tentacle imbedded in it, fell to the floor.

Kevin stumbled away, the room spinning, gray clouding his vision. He fell to one knee. Marcia knelt next to him, eased him to lying position. Blood trickled from his arm, pooling on the cold stone beneath him.

“We gotta get out of here,” Kevin said. “Help me up.”

Marcia helped him to his feet. Kevin stumbled, dizzy. He looked down, his senses snapping awake when he did. Two tentacles sprouted from the floor where his blood pooled.

“Let’s go,” he said.

Marcia draped Kevin’s uninjured arm over her shoulders to lend support. They staggered from the room, made their way down the long hallway. Each time they stepped in the flickering light of another torch Kevin glanced down, watched blood drip from his arm. Tiny tentacles sprouted from the stone where each drop splashed.

They reached the steps.

“Go,” Kevin said, pulling his arm down, pushing Marcia ahead.

“You need help.”

“Stairway’s too narrow.” Marcia started to protest. He pushed her. “Go. I’m right behind you.”
To read the rest of The Dark Secret of Warren House, and the entire collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, click here for Kindle or here for Nook.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Excerpt 7 -- This hearse is looking for a body...

An excerpt from The Hearse...

Rylan was fantasizing about sleep when he glanced in his rearview mirror. His gaze locked on what he saw there. Two headlights, roughly fifty yards away, he guessed. Behind the headlights was the outline of a hearse. From this distance, in the dead of the night, Rylan knew he shouldn’t be able to make out anything behind the headlights. But the hearse was clearly visible. It was black. All hearses are black. An odd bluish glow enveloped the vehicle, bringing out details that should not have been visible.

At the sight of the hearse Trish’s first words, what she told when he arrived at her house, came flooding back. She said she was convinced someone killed Randy, even though he was found lying in the kitchen floor, felled by a heart attack in the middle of the night. Trish said she thought someone had been stalking Randy – that for two days before he died Randy said he kept seeing a hearse following him around town.

She said Randy only glimpsed it at first – catching a reflection in the mirror, then it would be gone. Later that day every time he went out he saw it, following him, or parked in the same garage. He had told her the same thing happened the day he died.

Trish said Randy was convinced he was going to die, that the hearse was some sort of harbinger. She thought it was something more easily explained, though just as sinister – a stalker. She didn’t know why, or have any idea by whom, but to her that explanation made more sense than her thirty-seven-year-old husband dropping dead in the kitchen floor.

She had shared this with the police, but they treated her like a hysterical wife, too distraught over her husband’s death to think clearly. Rylan didn’t respond to her suspicions. Truth was, he thought the same as the police. The medical examiner had pronounced the cause of death most likely a heart attack, with no reason to investigate further. Case closed. Now Rylan wished he had paid more attention to her, asked her more about the hearse, about what happened leading up to Randy’s death.

Rylan glared nervously at the mirror, the sleep that had been dancing at the edges of his mind now gone. Rylan glanced at the speedometer – sixty-five. He nudged the cruise control a bit until the speedometer read seventy, then looked back at the mirror.

The hearse matched his speed, staying the same distance behind.

He tapped the cruise control button twice more, pushing the speed to seventy-five. He kept his eyes on the road ahead, too scared to look in the mirror. Finally, after several minutes he did glance at the mirror. The hearse was still there, keeping pace.

Rylan mashed the accelerator. The speedometer shot up, past eighty, past ninety. Rylan knew there was a good chance he would trip some state trooper’s radar, end up with a ticket, feeling silly that he had let a simple hearse spook him. He didn’t care.
Feeling silly explaining all this to a cop would be a relief. The speedometer passed ninety-five, inched close to one hundred.

Rylan kept his eyes on the road ahead of him, as nervous about driving at this speed as he was about the hearse tailing him. He glanced at the dashboard clock – one forty-five. He kept driving, his focus on the road ahead, not wanting to look in the mirror until he’d left the hearse behind. He drove and glanced at the clock, repeating the process as the clock ticked off one minute, then two, three, four, five. Another minute later Rylan could stand it no longer. He looked in the mirror.

Still roughly fifty yards behind the hearse followed.

“Damn,” Rylan whispered.

He lifted his foot from the accelerator and gently pressed the brake. The speedometer dropped – eighty, seventy, sixty, fifty.

Rylan looked in the mirror. The hearse slowed, keeping the same distance between them.
For just 99 cents you can read the rest of The Hearse, as well as all the stories in my collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES (sale ends, soon, though!). Download here for your Kindle, or here for your Nook.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Day 6 of 10 Days of Excerpts -- Youth in a Bottle

Okay, I know I said something last week about 10 excerpts in 10 days, but you and I both know I meant 10 excerpts in 12 days, right? I mean, that is what I meant to say...really...

And today's excerpt is from my short story, Youth in a Bottle, which for those of us with a few years on us is an intriguing idea. It was for the main character of this story, aging burned-out rock star Grace Smith, until she found out what it was the bottle contained.

You can still get Youth in a Bottle (the story, not the youth), and the rest of my collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, for just 99 cents, for download to your Kindle here or for download to your Nook here.

And now, for today's excerpt:


...Tonight none of that mattered. Grace felt more alive, more like a singer, more like a rock star than she had in nearly a decade. The announcer quieted the crowd, called her name and Grace sprinted onto the stage.

She dove in to her opening set, deep voice bellowing the lyrics at a fevered pitch. Diehard Grace Smith fans made up the audience. They had come despite the vitriolic reviews of recent shows, and soon were screaming for more, their fists pumping in time with the music. After ninety minutes, the appointed time for the concert to end, Grace was nowhere near finished. She turned to her band.

“All right boys, that's enough of a warm-up, now let's rock the house,” she called into the mic. The band members glanced at one another, surprise on their faces. So far the daily script for the tour had been play hard for ninety minutes, sometimes less, then get off the stage and the rest of the night belonged to them.

“I said, let’s ROCK THE HOUSE,” Grace screamed. The audience joined in, their cries for more echoing off the walls, the roof. The band members kicked in on their respective instruments. For another ninety minutes they played, the audience cheered, and Grace was in heaven. She forgot about being old, about being tired, about the small but now-rabid audience. For those ninety minutes it was just her and the music, melding together. Finally Grace’s agent, who doubled as her road manager, got her attention from the wings. He was pointing at his watch – if the band and crew didn’t clear the building by midnight he’d have to cough up another day’s rent.

She sang two more songs, then exited the stage.

“Damn, that felt incredible,” she screamed as her bandmates followed into the wings. Grace hugged each one of them – another surprise, since she had barely acknowledged their existence during the tour. “Great show guys.” She jogged to her dressing room, shut the door behind her and leaned against the wall, eyes closed, listening to cheers filtering from the concert hall.

“Quite a show.”

Her eyes snapped open.

“How did you ... you weren’t here a second ago,” she said.

“I was, I chose not to be seen. I must compliment you, Ms. Smith, on a stirring performance.” He bowed slightly. “I see you tried the elixir.”

“Yeah, I tried it, so what?” She walked across the room, brushing roughly against the man.

“Come, come, Ms. Smith, I would think you’d be ecstatic with the results.”

“Results? I drank it, nothing happened. I suppose you’ll get a good laugh out of that, making me believe I could find youth again in that damn little bottle.”

“That’s exactly what you found, Ms. Smith. Youth. At least a few hours of that most precious commodity.”

“Like hell. That stuff is about as worthless as—”

“You sang tonight like you were thirty. You even look younger."

Despite her cynicism Grace twirled to the mirror. She leaned close. Sweat glistened on her skin, but even through the perspiration she could see the lines on her face where a tad shallower, the circles under her eyes a bit faded. She faced the stranger.

“What did you give me?”

“Oh, I’m not sure you really want to know just yet. Later, once you begin to truly understand what it means to grow young.”

“What did you give me?”

The man smiled, but remained silent.

Grace maintained a hard stare. As a young rock singer she had been naturally defiant whenever a manger or bar owner tried to bully her. She felt the same emotion tonight, another feeling she had not known in years.

“I said tell me.”

More silence.

“I got all night,” Grace said.

“As you wish. The vial was filled with blood. Human blood.”

The defiance left her body like helium escaping a popped balloon. Grace grabbed her belly, turned to the dressing table and leaned against it for support. Her stomach heaved. Vomit filled her mouth before spilling onto the tabletop. ...

Read the rest of Youth in a Bottle (the story, not the youth), and my collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, for just 99 cents, for download to your Kindle here or for download to your Nook here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vampires come in all shapes and sizes...

Day five of my Ten Excerpts in Ten Days brings us to my story, Interview With The Barber. A mainstay of the dark fantasy and horror tales through the centuries has been the legend of the vampire -- immortals who feed on human blood to maintain their own lives.

We've seen evil vampires, funny vampires, even sparkly vampires, but I daresay you've not seen one like Robert Presley. And you can read the full tale Interview With The Barber in my collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, on sale now for just 99 cents.

And now, from Interview With The Barber...

I decided the only way to figure out what was going on was to do a little spying. I drove by the shop Friday night long after Presley had closed and gone home. I checked around the building in the dark with my cheap key chain flashlight and found two small windows in the back, completely hidden by two overgrown bushes.

The next night – Presley keeps his shop open late on Saturdays – I parked at an abandoned grocery store a mile down the road and walked to his shop as dusk fell. It was dark by the time I reached his place, so I snuck between a few cars parked in the lot then slipped around the building. I ducked in between the bushes and peered through the windows.

For the next hour I watched Presley cutting away, a seemingly permanent half-smile on his face, his mouth moving with his idle barbershop conversation. I couldn't hear him, but I was sure he was telling more of his jokes and stories, relating the town gossip some of his customers from earlier in the day had told him.

Another half-hour passed and there were just two people left with Presley – an old gruff of a man with a bushy gray beard, dressed in dirty overalls, was climbing into the barber's chair and a younger man, probably my age, was sitting in the waiting section flipping through a magazine.

The old guy sat in the chair, Presley decked him out in the barber's apron and started cutting away at his hair, his mouth moving in what was no doubt a monotonous litany of meaningless chit-chat. I prepared to leave, disgusted with myself for having wasted the evening. Then it happened.

Presley stepped away from the old guy, put his clippers and comb on the shelf and then stepped back to the chair. The old man never moved. The young guy sat still, the magazine slipping from his hands to the floor. He made no move to retrieve it.

Presley stood with his arms by his sides. His mouth twitched, his whole face convulsed. His mouth stretched wider than humanly possible, his lower lip peeled back, and two giant insect-like mandibles protruded through his gums, growing upward over his top lip, giving his lower face a bug-like appearance.

Presley leaned over the old man, moved the beard aside and slid the two mandibles through the man's skin, into his neck. I lost track of time, watching as Presley drank the man’s blood. He stood, pulled a tissue from his pocket, dabbed a little blood from the man's neck and let the man's beard fall back into place. He stepped toward the young man in the waiting chair. I wanted to scream, to smash through the windows and warn the man, but I watched. Somehow, I had the presence of mind to glance at my watch this time, just as Presley began draining the blood from his second victim. When he finished I looked at the watch again – it seemed as if he had been there long enough to drain the man dry, but he had been drinking the victim's blood for less than ten minutes.

Presley again pulled the tissue from his pocket, dabbed at the man's neck, then bent over, picked up the magazine and placed it in the man's hands. Presley walked back to his shelf, picked up his hair-cutting utensils and turned back to the room. When he did his face had returned to normal – the round, full, flushed face of a man who had just fed. He walked to the bearded man, began snipping at his hair, his mouth moving again, no doubt with more gossip. A minute later the bearded man was talking, the young man flipping the magazine pages.

I sat on the cool, barren patch of dirt under the bush, not sure what to do.

What could I do? No one would believe me if I tried to tell what I'd seen. I had to confront Presley. Tell him I knew what he was. I would do it Monday.

I slept little that night and the next. I was nervous about confronting him, afraid to fall asleep, some little fear deep inside me said he already knew what I had seen, that he'd burst through the door to my apartment any moment. He never did, but by Monday I was exhausted from thinking, and worrying, about it all weekend. It took all the concentration I could muster to get through the day.

After work I drove to Presley's barbershop. Standing outside the door I checked through my coat pockets for what must have been the fiftieth time to make sure I had everything. I took a deep breath, opened the door and stepped in. He was sitting in his own barber’s chair, alone, looking as if he expected my visit.

“Back so soon? I must not be cuttin’ your hair short enough.” He chuckled as he spoke, a laugh that once seemed a simple country chortle. Now my skin crawled at the sound.

“I’m not here for a haircut,” I said, my mouth dry, my voice quivering.

Presley stood, stepped to the side of the chair and patted the brown vinyl cover.

“Climb on up and–”

“No!” I screamed, cutting him off in mid-sentence.

He grew quiet. I paused, not sure what to do next. Presley stepped back in front of his chair, slowly sat down and smiled broadly.

“Well, then, what can I do for you?” he asked.

I waited, still not sure what to say. I jerked my hand from my coat pocket, a small crucifix held clenched in my fist.

“I know what you are,” I said, my voice little more than a whisper. I stretched my arm in front of me and stepped toward Presley. “I know what you are,” I repeated, my voice stronger.

The smile faded from Presley’s face. He stared at me, a blank stare like that of a corpse with its eyes still open. The shop grew quieter. Even the traffic from the highway outside faded, the only sound that of my breathing.

Presley burst out laughing. Not the country-boy chuckle I’d come to know over the past several weeks, but a hard-edged soulless laugh.

The sound startled me. I flinched, then stiffened in a show of false bravado.

Presley laughed harder, tears welling in his eyes. He reached out and brought his hand down over top of the crucifix, pulling it from my hand. “And just what do you think I am?”

To read the rest of Interview with the Barber, and to get the entire collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, for just 99 cents, for your Kindle go here. To download to your Nook go here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Hearse, AND a special offer for National Short Story Month

Day three of Ten Days of Horror, excerpts from my dark fantasy and horror collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES. Today's excerpt is from my short story, The Hearse.

As a BONUS for the final three days of May, to mark the end of National Short Story Month, I'm offering my collection for just 99 cents! That's only one-third of the normal price for a collection that has twice ranked in the Amazon Top 100 Dark Fantasy best seller list -- yours for just 99 cents.

And now, an excerpt from The Hearse.
The story is part of Rylan was fantasizing about sleep when he glanced in his rearview mirror. His gaze locked on what he saw there. Two headlights, roughly fifty yards away, he guessed. Behind the headlights was the outline of a hearse. From this distance, in the dead of the night, Rylan knew he shouldn’t be able to make out anything behind the headlights. But the hearse was clearly visible. It was black. All hearses are black. An odd bluish glow enveloped the vehicle, bringing out details that should not have been visible....

...Rylan glared nervously at the mirror, the sleep that had been dancing at the edges of his mind now gone. Rylan glanced at the speedometer – sixty-five. He nudged the cruise control a bit until the speedometer read seventy, then looked back at the mirror. The hearse matched his speed, staying the same distance behind.

He tapped the cruise control button twice more, pushing the speed to seventy-five. He kept his eyes on the road ahead, too scared to look in the mirror. Finally, after several minutes he did glance at the mirror. The hearse was still there, keeping pace.

Rylan mashed the accelerator. The speedometer shot up, past eighty, past ninety. Rylan knew there was a good chance he would trip some state trooper’s radar, end up with a ticket, feeling silly that he had let a simple hearse spook him. He didn’t care. Feeling silly explaining all this to a cop would be a relief. The speedometer passed ninety-five, inched close to one hundred.

Rylan kept his eyes on the road ahead of him, as nervous about driving at this speed as he was about the hearse tailing him. He glanced at the dashboard clock – one forty-five. He kept driving, his focus on the road ahead, not wanting to look in the mirror until he’d left the hearse behind. He drove and glanced at the clock, repeating the process as the clock ticked off one minute, then two, three, four, five. Another minute later Rylan could stand it no longer. He looked in the mirror.

Still roughly fifty yards behind the hearse followed.

“Damn,” Rylan whispered.

He lifted his foot from the accelerator and gently pressed the brake. The speedometer dropped – eighty, seventy, sixty, fifty. Rylan looked in the mirror. The hearse slowed, keeping the same distance between them.

Rylan mashed the accelerator again, quickly reaching eighty. He saw an exit sign ahead. At the last second he turned onto the off ramp, too fast for the curvy exit. Rylan slammed on his brakes. The rear of the car slid to the left; Rylan turned into the slide. The car fishtailed the other way; Rylan turned the steering wheel furiously the opposite direction. The car began to swing back, but by now had slowed enough for Rylan to straighten it up. Back in control, he glanced in the mirror.

Driving along the exit ramp, minus all the highway contortions Rylan and his car had just exhibited, was the hearse. ...

To read the rest of The Hearse, along with my novella The Alchemist and nine other dark tales, download THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES -- for just 99 cents today through May 31. To download to your Kindle, click here. To download to your Nook, click here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mother's Last Wish...

Day two of Ten Days of Excerpts from my collection, THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES.

Today's excerpt, from the story Mother's Last Wish, examines what is ultimately the worst horror for us all -- death -- and how the world might be different if we could avoid dying. If everyone could avoid death.


A high-pitched hum, worse than any alarm clock, invaded his sleep. Sonny woke, the fading light of dusk adding a melancholy mood to the room, and remembered he was alone, in his mother’s bed.

The hum grew louder. Sonny sat, glancing around for its source.

Lying on the bed next to him the music box vibrated with the hum, a pulsing pink light surrounding it.

Eyes wide, heart hammering, Sonny scrambled across the bed, away from the light and sound.

The glow drifted up from the box, formed a small globe of light floating next to the bed. It changed from pink to yellow, then red, followed by purple, brightening with each change, the hum growing louder. The light expanded to the size of a basketball, turned white, so brilliant Sonny closed his eyes. He placed his hands over his ears, shielding them from the loud, piercing whine emanating from the light.

He screamed. The whine grew so loud he could not hear his own voice, the light so bright his eyes burned, even while closed.

“No,” he called.

It stopped.

Sonny took his hands from his ears and peeked through partially-open eyelids.

Standing in the bedroom was a woman, dressed in a sheer, billowing emerald green robe, a soft white glow surrounding her.
Sonny’s eyes snapped open, breath caught in his throat.

Gorgeous was the word that popped in his head.

The woman was tall, at least equal to Sonny’s five-foot-nine frame, and slender. Red hair fell in loose curls around a lightly freckled face. Her eyes glowed bright and green. She smiled, lips full and red, teeth brilliant white.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Anu,” she said, her voice musical in quality.

“What do you want?”

“I want nothing, dear boy.” Anu cupped Sonny’s face, her touch warm, intoxicating. “I come to fulfill your mother’s wish.”

“I don’t understand. My mother?” Speaking of his mother sent a wave of fresh, raw grief over Sonny. Tears welled in his eyes.

“Come,” she said, pulling Sonny toward her, resting his head on her chest, stroking slender fingers through his hair. Her touch brought memories of his mother, running her fingers through his hair while he was a boy. He sobbed. Anu put her arms around him, rocked gently until his cries faded.

“Your mother loved you very much. You did not know at the time, but you gave her a very special gift. The music box you presented to her is older than you can know. It holds my spirit, and the family which owns it three wishes I must grant.”

“Three wishes?”

“Yes. Over many centuries I have granted wishes – victory in battles, riches beyond measure, long life. But your mother simply asked for two things.”

Sonny pulled away, looked into Anu’s eyes.


“Do you remember buying the music box with your father?”


“Do you remember where you bought it?”

“At a thrift store, because we couldn’t afford to shop anywhere else.”

“Yes. You were very ill. Your parents put all their money into doctor visits, drugs, hoping desperately to find a cure. You were dying, and there was nothing any healer could do. When I revealed myself to your mother, she wished for your health, and it was given back to you.”

“The second wish?”

“She held onto that until you went away to study. She wished simply for your success.”

Sonny reflected on his life. He had been successful, more than he had dared dream when he left for college. Studies came easily, unnaturally so, and after college more job offers than he could have imagined. He took what he believed to be the best, advanced quickly, soon found himself in the upper management of the firm, enough money to buy anything, to go anywhere.

He lavished his mother with vacations, gifts, cars, but she had never wanted to move from the simple house where he had grown up, so they remained.

Some said he seemed to live a charmed life. Now he understood why.

“The third wish?”

“She saved that for you. She set me free to roam the world, the only condition I return upon her passing, grant you the final wish.”

Sonny rubbed his eyes, leaned and rested his elbows on his knees.

“Anything I want?”

“Yes, my boy, but please do not ask me to bring your mother back?”

He stood, voice tinged with anger.

“You said anything. Any wish.”

“If that is your wish, I can restore life to your mother’s corpse, but it will not be her. She has passed to another world, across a great chasm I cannot cross. Raise her body? That I can do, but her soul will be gone. She will be gone.”

Sonny turned, paced across the room, hands atop his head. He whirled back to face Anu.

“Why do you torment me? You offer me a wish, yet tell me the one thing I desire I cannot have.”

Anu said nothing. Sonny stared, again struck by her simple beauty.

“No more death,” he said.

“Is that truly your wish?”

“Yes. Never again should anyone face grief. No more death. Ever.”

“It is so.”


For more of Mother's Last Wish and the entire collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, click here to download to your Kindle, or here to download to your Nook.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Mother's Love

Well, I'm a couple of days late with this (and I'm almost always more than a few dollars short), but today I'm starting ten straight days of excerpts, a different one from each of my stories in the collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES.

Today's dark treat comes from my story, A MOTHER'S LOVE, and takes a look at just how far a mother will go to save every child should be saved.


Amy Jennings stands on her front lawn, staring into the empty street. Fog-shrouded street lamps cast a ghostly pallor over the neighborhood. Amy shivers. She is clad only in a nightgown and her husband’s trench coat, which gives scant warmth. Memories — pushing Adam on the swing, playing tag with her little boy and her husband, picnicking on the back deck — swirl through her mind like leaves stirred by the late night breeze. Recollections of a time now gone, taken under cover of night.

Behind her activity fills the lawn, the house. Men in uniforms search, those in suits and ties talk with her husband, with neighbors. She hears them, noises meant to show activity, attention, though the results will be nil.

Amy knows this. She’s been there, in her own detective clothes. We will do everything possible. We have every available person working this case. We have a nationwide alert out, his description sent to every law enforcement agency in the country. We’ve had good success. We are hopeful.

She has recited the statements a hundred times over — Amy’s worked half the childhood kidnappings in the Mid-west over the past decade -- and she's well practiced at the empty words that leave the promise of hope while making no commitments, no hints at the truth.

Your child is gone. Unless we’re lucky, you’ll never see him again. His fate is sealed. Tonight, maybe next week, perhaps in a month, he will die. And it won’t go easy.

That’s what Amy thinks every time she mouths the words of cautioned hope. Those are the thoughts behind the practiced, non-committal statements the men and women give tonight.

Amy walks across the wet grass. Fear flashes through her. Terror. Panic. He was here, on this spot. Amy falls to the ground, her hands tracing the path of horror, Adam’s emotions still alive, traceable, as clear to her as a trail of blood. She’s felt this before. Her “gift” everyone calls it. The ability has made her a kidnapping specialist, not because of her powers of observation or ability to out-think criminals, but simply because Amy can feel the emotions of those who have been taken, track their movements.

Tonight is different. Her stomach knots, the taste of bile seeps into her mouth. No professional detachment, just a battle to hold her emotions in check.

Amy climbs to her feet and marches by the men and women in uniform, the detectives in the living room, ignoring the “Mrs. Jennings,” and “Are you okay?” Fifteen minutes later Amy pulls from her garage, stopping only because one of the uniforms stands in her way. She recognizes him as the shift captain.

“Amy, where are you going?”


“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Am I under suspicion?”

“Should you be?”

“Captain, step away from the car. I’m leaving.”

“The FBI response team will be here momentaril—”

“I’m a member of the goddamned response team, remember? I’m the one who leads them to the …” She cannot finish the sentence. “Get away from the car.” Amy mashes the accelerator. On the street, even with the car between her and the pavement, she still feels it, like an ache in bones. Terror. Dread.


To read the rest of A MOTHER'S LOVE, and the full collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, click here for your Kindle or here for your Nook.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A teacher under attack.....

An excerpt from my novella, THE ALCHEMIST, part of THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, a top 40 Amazon Hot New Release:

For three nights Denny Harris experienced a consuming fire inside him, a yearning to strike out hard, to stop this rolling force of evil he had witnessed spreading through the children who walked into his school.

Twenty-one years ago it was the odd one who was a trouble maker. Fifteen years ago it was the hippies and druggies. More of them, but most kids were still good and decent. Now things had changed. Too much bad. Too little good. He felt like exploding in frustration at not knowing what to do. The one thing he knew was that he could rid the world of Jackie Pugh.

The day Jackie returned to school lumbered agonizingly slow. Denny mostly assigned classroom reading, then paced the floor, nervous energy building with each step.

The final bell rang. Kids clamored from classrooms, opened and shut lockers, yelled in the hallway. To Denny it was background noise, barely perceptible above the slushing of his blood pumping through his body.

The school grew quiet.

Denny stepped from his classroom.

At the other end of the hall stood Jackie. He was flanked by two others, a boy who looked about Jackie’s age, and a girl. Denny recognized her as Donna Obenshain. Two years ago she was a nice kid. She worked hard, played sports. Now she wore Doc Martens and fishnet stockings, a short leather skirt and a torn black t-shirt, with a small chain looped around her waist. Donna’s hair was spiked, liked Denny’s, only much longer so that the ends turned down. Her hair was mostly pink with a bit of natural blond showing. The boy, Roger something or other. Except for his hair being all black, Roger and Jackie could have been twins.

Jackie stepped forward, followed by the other two. He pulled a chain from his jacket and wrapped it around his hand as he approached.

Denny walked straight at them. Within seconds he and Jackie stood face to face. The other two flanked the teacher.

“Uh oh,” Jackie said. “Looks like teach is in a bit of trouble.”

“You’ll need more than these two,” Denny replied.

Denny’s vision exploded into bursting stars, hurt rolling across his head as Roger smashed his fist into the teacher’s temple.

Jackie slammed his chain-covered fist into Denny’s cheek. The skin split and blood spurted from Denny’s face. Donna kicked him in the stomach, pushed him to the floor, then the three of them stomped wherever they could lay a foot -- head, shoulder, back, leg.
Denny’s vision faded. He felt unconsciousness creeping through his body.

No. This will not happen.

Denny roared as he sprung to his feet. He backhanded Donna and she sprawled across the hard tile floor. The chain had come loose from Jackie’s fist during the struggle and now it flapped against Denny with each punch. He grabbed the end and jerked, the movement catching Jackie by surprise. Jackie lurched forward and fell against the teacher as Denny yanked the chain. Denny shoved the heel of his hand against Jackie’s chin. The teen stumbled backward and fell.

Denny whirled to face Roger, pointing at the teen with outstretched hand.

“Fenestra. Fenestra Fragosus,” he cried.

Roger catapulted through the air and crashed headfirst into the window. His body came to rest draped over the bottom of the frame, head and torso hanging inside the building, legs hanging outside. Jagged cuts lined Roger’s face, a piece of glass protruded from his neck. His body convulsed.

“What the fuck did you do?” Donna screamed. She ran to Roger.

“You’re dead, now,” Jackie said. He stood and circled Denny until he was next to Donna.

Denny raised his hands, palms facing his attackers, and chanted “Quietum! Abi in malam rem. Commoror. Aeternus a um.”
Their bodies began fading into nothingness. Denny heard gurgling noises from Roger. Donna screamed. Jackie stared at the teacher, and an old saying from his youth -- If looks could kill -- came to mind, then the three were gone.


For the complete novella, and nine more dark (and maybe thought-provoking) tales, download here for your Kindle, and right here for you Nook.

Until midnight, Saturday, May 18 the collection is on sale for just 99 cents!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A week-long Mother's Day special

In honor of Mother's Day, I'm putting all my novel-length works on sale this week.

Beginning on on Saturday, May 11 and lasting until Saturday, May 18, my novella and short story collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES will be on sale for just 99 cents -- that's a full 67 percent off the normal price.

My inspirational/religious novel written under my pen name John Peter Blankenship, CHOICES, will also be 99 cents -- again a full 67 percent off regular price. And yes, I know, that's an odd combination for a writer -- a horror collection and an inspirational novel. See my post, Can a Horror Guy do Inspirational/Religious Writing from December to see how I managed to do that.

My romance thriller, CLAIMING MOON, is on sale for $1.99, a full 50 percent off the normal price.

What are the books about?

THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES is, as I mentioned, a collection of stories. Some are reprints of work I've had published in such fine markets as Horror Library Vol. 1 and the Stoker-nominated Horror Library Vol. 3; Dark Recesses (sadly, now defunct); Midnight Echo; Night Terrors 2; and elsewhere. Some of the works have never been published before.

The centerpiece is my novella THE ALCHEMIST. Here's a little synopsis of that tale and others:

Every day they file into our nation’s schools – tens of thousands of children, and teens – innocent, bright-eyed, looking forward to their future. But something is wrong in our nation. Bullies ruin lives. Killers sometimes walk those halls. The Good Old Golden Rule Days seem to be a thing of the past.

What if you could stop the violence, protect the innocent? What if you had the ability to separate the good from the bad, the innocent from the evil – like the alchemist of olden days, who could seemingly fuse a strange, dark magic with everyday items and make something new and precious?

Would you use this power? Could you control it?

Denny Harris possesses what we all wish we had – the ability to help those in need, the power to protect the weak.

As a high school teacher he is uniquely positioned to use his gift. In the classroom he sees the worst in humanity – drug users, bullies, criminals in the making – and their hapless victims, kids who are ridiculed, stolen from, even beaten.

Descendant from an ancient race, born with the ability to harness a supernatural power for his purposes, Denny has the ability to protect the innocent, if he can tell who really needs his protection.

Easy, right? Maybe not, for sometimes life isn’t as it seems.

A lesson Denny learns too late in the novella The Alchemist.

Other stories in this collection examine issues we like to hide away in a dark corner: How strong is a mother’s love, and can a mom go too far in protecting her child? What if you could end all death in the world – would you? Are all barbers nice guys? Is eternal youth worth any price? What happens if a whole town turns out to be not quite of this world?

These and other questions are all examined in THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES.


CHOICES is a novel I wrote after several experiences over the years -- spending some time with several homeless people for a couple of articles I wrote years ago, seeing firsthand how those with plenty often run right over those with little, and watching people with a deep and strong faith in God working, daily, to live that faith and help those in need.

Here's a little bit about CHOICES:

It’s Christmas and Joey Reagan has been presented with a unique gift – the opportunity to wash away two decades of hurt, a chance to forgive the source of that pain, a shot at peace and contentment.

Accepting that present isn’t as easy as it seems. For 20 years Joey has carried the scars of abandonment, the bitterness of being left by his father and, as far as he can tell, the God his mother so devoutly worshipped.

Making choices hasn’t always been the strength of the Reagan men. Joey’s father made a series of poor decisions years ago, choices that cost a life, split their family, and left Joey with an emptiness that’s never been filled.

Now Joey has to make a few choices, and what he decides will affect his life, the woman who loves him, and a series of people he hasn’t yet met.

Can Joey overcome the past and make the right decision? That’s the question, and the answers can be found in CHOICES, a novel written under my pen name John Peter Blankenship.


And finally, my novel CLAIMING MOON. This was my testing the waters a bit as a romance and suspense writer. Along the way, I found a few characters I really liked, so I most definitely will be doing a sequel to this one. Maybe even a whole series. For now, though, CLAIMING MOON wraps up quite nicely as a self-contained story while also leaving an opening for more.

Here's a little bit about the work:

People are dying in Southwest Virginia, their bodies ripped open, a vital organ missing.

Clearwater Police Detective Frank Taliaferro has served in larger departments, advised the FBI, even worked international cases for The United Nations, but now he’s back where his career began, in the small town of Clearwater, Virginia. And he’s never seen anything like these killings.

Frank finds himself forced to participate in a charity bachelor auction as a public relations move for the police department.

Cassandra Kincaid, a rising star at the Daily Dispatch who has her sights set on moving to one of the larger dailies – New York, Washington, maybe Los Angeles – is forced into participating in the auction as a bidder so she can write a feature piece on the whole process.

Although she is none-too-fond of police, Cassandra ends up winning a date with Frank. Surprisingly, she finds the detective charming, definitely attractive, and enjoys their evening together until the date is interrupted by a gruesome murder.

That’s when things get complicated. The two find themselves drawn together in an uneasy yet passionate relationship while they both race to uncover what is behind a series of macabre murders.

Cassandra’s probing also uncovers a dark secret from Frank’s past, one that drives a wedge of mistrust between them, yet Cassandra finds she can’t get the detective out of her mind.

In the end her feelings for Frank may not matter because the two find themselves in a deadly face-off with the killer. Only then do they learn there is an ancient evil behind the grisly murders, but that discovery may be too late to save either of them.


I believe there's a little something here for every taste. Heck, you can get all three now for the normal price of CLAIMING MOON. So go ahead, buy your mom one or two, or three, of my works. Heck, buy some for yourself.

THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES is available for download to your Kindle right here and to your Nook right here. Don't have either? No problem, you can get a free Kindle reading app for use on your computer or mobile device right here.

CHOICES is available for download to your Kindle right here and to your Nook here.

CLAIMING MOON is available for your Kindle here and for your Nook here.

Thanks for stopping by, Happy Mother's Day and happy reading!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A visit to the Hot 100 New Release list during a special month

One of the challenges indie writers face is that we have to do a bit of everything. Not only do we write – the core of our endeavors – but we have to do or oversee the editing, cover design, formatting, publishing and marketing.

Sometimes, in trying to juggle so much a few things escape our notice. That has happened to me twice this week.

First, the big news. I published my novella and short story collection, THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, around the first of May. I've been doing a bit of marketing, finding a few websites and blogs willing to do reviews for me and never even noticed, until this morning, that the collection made the Amazon Hot 100 New Releases in the Science Fiction Anthologies category.

How long it's been there, or how high it actually climbed, I don't know. Like I said, I just discovered it today. But it's there!

And that seems appropriate, given the second bit of information I discovered this morning. May is National Short Story Month, so what better time for you to pick up THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES.

The collection starts with a somewhat shortish novella, then dives right in to short story after short story. All of the work is a little – okay, maybe a lot – on the dark side of life, and hopefully a little bit fun, too. I know I enjoyed writing most of the stories.

So, if you want to read a Hot New Release and maybe fill a hankering to indulge in reading a few short stories, this is the perfect time to pick up THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES. Just click on the title of the collection to order for your Kindle, or click right here for your Nook.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Alchemist & Other Dark Tales now available

What's the old standard, absolute power corrupts absolutely?

I don't know if that's entirely true, but I do believe unchecked power, even if meant for good, can have tragic consequences.

Such is the case in my novella, THE ALCHEMIST.

We have all watched in horror at news reports of school violence, read in outrage at accounts of bullies making life so miserable for their classmates that they drive some to suicide, others to lifelong depression. If you're like me, those emotions are usually followed by rage, or at the least righteous anger, generally directed at the perpetrator and those around him (or her) who did nothing to intervene.

Then again, what would we do if we were there, in the school, or the community, where these tragedies take place? What would you do?

That's the question facing Denny Harris, a teacher at Devane High School. From his position at the front of the classroom, Denny sees the worst that happens in our nation's schools -- the bullies, the thugs, the killers-in-the-making, all preying on those who are innocent, weaker, in need of protection.

Denny is also more than he seems, descendant from an ancient race of beings with the ability to harness a mystical power few know exist. Their purpose is to protect the innocent.

As Denny learns, sometimes it can be difficult to determine who truly needs that protection, and guessing wrong can have tragic consequences.

THE ALCHEMIST is a tale of supernatural horror that examines the question of who really needs our help, and how some modern efforts at addressing teen violence could be misguided. The novella is part of my collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, now available for download to your Kindle here or for download to your Nook here.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Writer, thou shalt not live by indie publishing alone

I’ve been working on the indie publishing thing now for a few months, and overall I’ve been pleased with what entering this world has brought.

First, I’ve met some wonderful people – a few readers who’ve contacted me to talk about my work and a number of writers who have been wonderfully supportive and helpful as I learn the ropes.

Second, I’ve managed to see a few sales along the way. My debut novel, CLAIMING MOON, has done okay, though I really seemed to hit on something with the release of several of my horror shorts last autumn and a mini-collection of holiday-related horror shorts in December.

Since then I’ve been concentrating on writing, doing a little marketing work along the way, and interacting with other indie writers, to watch and learn from what they do. I’m also working on a longer collection of horror shorts I plan to release in a few weeks.

While doing some edits on a few of those stories this past weekend, I realized something – I haven’t submitted to a publishing market in a long time. Probably not since 2011. A big part of that is because I’ve been so focused on indie publishing.

But I miss subbing. So I sent out four shorts on Sunday, and I have another handful I hope to send out to various markets over the next week.

I know in many ways indie publishing is a better long-term business model. While the millions of stories and ebooks floating around out there stack the odds against me in terms of getting my work noticed, there is still a measure of control, the ability to generate at least some level of income, in this brave new world of independent publishing.

Still, there are very few thrills for a writer that measure up to getting an acceptance from an honest-to-goodness magazine or website. One of the few thrills that does match that is getting paid. I’ve never subbed to anything other than paying markets, and over the years I’ve been paid as little as $10 for a story and as much as $150, mostly for stories in the 2,000-word to 5,000-word range (unfortunately, most markets won’t take anything longer).

I miss that thrill. Both of those thrills. So I’m taking a slightly different approach over the next few months. I’ll continue working hard at publishing more original novel-length work this year, and I’m still moving forward with the short story collection, but a lot of my as-yet unpublished short fiction will be finding its way into the slush piles at various publications, and hopefully, eventually, find their way into publication.

Who knows, I might even query an agent or three for a couple of my novels.

I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dealing with Loss

A month ago today, we buried my dad.

It’s been a heck of a month.

For those of you who didn’t know, my father passed away early on Feb. 27. At 5 a.m. to be precise, with my mother, my two sisters, one of my children and myself at his side. He's pictured above with my mom, in a photo taken a little less than two years ago.

I considered writing something about him here, but I did write a tribute of sorts to him in the column I write each Sunday – if you’d like to read it (and I hope you do), go right here.

On March 9 my aunt died. It was my mom’s sister, so yes, it would be quite an understatement to suggest my mother has had a difficult few weeks. My aunt had been sick for several months, some sort of mystery illness the doctors and specialists couldn’t identify. They could treat the symptoms, although even that was eventually going to be a losing battle, and there was nothing fun about those treatments.

Eventually she simply decided enough was enough and discontinued the treatments. Several days later she passed with her sons, her brother and her sister (my mom) at her side.

Although I did get a chance to visit with her a couple of times in the final weeks, I really hadn’t seen my aunt in a number of years. When I was a child, though, I stayed at her house each day after school for several years. Her oldest son and I were fairly close as cousins go – we were the same age (though I took great delight in constantly reminding him I was his senior by three months), we played sports together, tried to one-up one another, played throw-back-and-tackle together with our other cousins (that’s a game that essentially pits a ball carrier against everyone else), and each Friday night I either spent the night at his house or he was at mine.

And yes, we got into some trouble together. We absolutely totaled a go-cart he had racing one another when I cut him off on a turn and he ended up crashing in a creek. And we got a blistering punishment when we dammed up that same creek – so effectively we flooded a neighbor’s yard (and very nearly their house).

We had some fun times. But we grew up, grew apart, and other than visiting her in the hospital, I hadn’t seen my aunt or my cousin in years.

Then, ten days ago I woke to find an e-mail from an old friend, telling me about the passing of another friend, a young lady who was in the same high school graduating class as I was. My high class was small, just 25 students, so we were fairly tight. This particular young lady I had even dated a couple of times, though nothing came of that. We were just friends, and I recall a sweet-spirited, friendly person who never said an unkind word about anyone.

Again, I hadn’t seen her in years – probably two decades – so it wasn’t as if we were close. Still, it was quite sobering to see someone from my youth, someone whose image was still, at least in my mind, 18 and young and ready to take on the world, gone.

And I suppose that reminded me, in a way nothing else could, that I’m no longer young, that I’m no longer ready to take on the world. My own kids are getting to that age – my oldest will marry in September, my second will be transferring after two years of community college to a four-year school, and my next two are entering the later part of their teen years.

We still have one young one – she’s 11 – but even the final child is growing up, and I’m feeling old.

As I’ve aged my writing’s changed, too. I’m a better writer, and that’s good, but somehow along the way the newness, the idea that I’m creating something different every time I write a story, something fresh and exciting (to me if not to anyone else), has faded over the years.

I know that happens to everyone, whether they are a writer or painter, brick layer or traffic cop. As we age, we approach things differently, we see the world through older, sometimes less enthusiastic eyes. I guess it’s the way of life.

But it’s sad to lose that newness, that belief that you really can have an effect on the world, and most of all it’s sad to see those we care about lost.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

CLAIMING MOON now available on Nook

Nearly seven months ago my debut novel, CLAIMING MOON, went live at, available for download to Kindle and free Kindle-reading apps.

Several folks asked me then if it was available at Barnes and Noble for download to a Nook, and regrettably, I had to say no.

Starting today, that is no longer the case!

That’s right – CLAIMING MOON is available at B&N for your Nook. As with the Kindle format, you can also download a free Nook app for your computer or other reading device.

So, what’s CLAIMING MOON all about? Here’s the promo:

People are dying in Southwest Virginia, their bodies ripped open, each missing a vital organ.

Clearwater Police Detective Frank Taliaferro has served in larger departments, advised the FBI, even worked international cases for The United Nations, but now he’s back where his career began, in the small town of Clearwater, Virginia. And he’s never seen anything like these killings.

When Frank is forced into a charity bachelor auction as a prospective date, he meets Clearwater Daily Dispatch reporter Cassandra Kincaid, assigned to participate in the auction as a bidder and report her experience.

The murders begin on the night of their date, and the two find themselves drawn together in an uneasy yet passionate relationship, while they both race to uncover what is behind the macabre murders. Working independently of one another, each discovers an awful truth – the deaths are revenge killings, and someone, or something, is still on the loose, looking for more victims.

Cassandra’s probing also uncovers a dark secret from Frank’s past, one that drives a wedge of mistrust between them, yet Cassandra finds she can’t get the detective out of her mind.

In the end her feelings for Frank may not matter because the two find themselves in a deadly face-off with an ancient cult deep in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. Only then do they learn the truth behind the grisly murders, but that discovery may be too late for either of them.

So why did it take so long to come to Nook?

I had the novel in the Amazon Kindle Prime Lending Library, which meant it was available to Amazon Prime members as a free “borrow.” Authors like me, with a novel in the program would get a payment for each borrow, just as we do for each sale. In order to be in the Prime Lending Program, I had to give them exclusive distribution rights to the novel, and agree to that for 90 days.

Truthfully, the program didn’t do much for me, and I more or less made up my mind to withdraw from the program at the end of the 90 days when, right as my 90th day approached, I saw a little borrowing activity on the novel. So I re-upped for another 90 days. However, during that time borrows trickled back to nothing, and the per-borrow payment rate also dropped quite a bit. So I suppose I’m joining the ever-growing number of writers leaving the Amazon Prime program because it’s proving to not be a very good business decision to remain.

That’s probably a little more nuts-and-bolts than you were interested in, but what this does mean for you is that you can now get my novel, CLAIMING MOON, on your Nook. Over the coming weeks, additional works I’ve published will show up for Nook, including my planned April 15 release of the horror collection, PROTECT THE INNOCENT & OTHER TALES.

The work features my horror novella PROTECT THE INNOCENT, along with a handful of other scary stories that I hope will keep you up at night. More details later.

For now, mosey on over to B&N and download your copy of CLAIMING MOON on you Nook.

Of course, if you would rather download to a Kindle, and you haven’t yet gotten your copy, you can download CLAIMING MOON right here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A novel of suspense, lust, desire and craving...

Note: This is a promo for the novel LETHAL OBSESSION by Shandra Miller. It is a novel of explicit depictions of sex and erotica with a heavy BDSM, and while that’s not exactly what I write, Shandra asked if I’d be willing to promote it on my blog. If you’re not into explicit material of this nature, you may wish to pass. However, if you don’t mind that subject matter, and you want a novel of suspense and chills, one that will keep you guessing, then LETHAL OBSESSION is for you. Here’s my take on the novel, with a little help from Shandra with lyrics that open my blog.

Once in love you're never out of danger
One hot night spent with a stranger
All you wanted was somebody to hold on to

Those lyrics are from a Rod Stewart song named Passion. They also describe the state of mind of Detective Angela Martin, the main character of my novel LETHAL OBSESSION.

Angela is like everyone else – she wants to be wanted. She wants to feel love. She wants passion. Angela finds it at the hand of Mr. Tanner, who takes her into a world of domination and submission, bondage and control. He does things to her she’s never imagined. Read this excerpt from the opening chapter:

I am going to die.

Because I’m stupid.

That was the final lucid thought Angela was able to form before emotion replaced rational thinking. His hands – gentle yet deliberate in the way they had already worked the rest of her clothing from her body – unfastened first one strap that hung over her shoulders, then the other, and Angela felt her face flush as the chemise fell, leaving her nude.

She heard a whimper as the hot sting of leather kissed her buttocks, then the whimper grew to a muffled cry with the second and third strike, and Angela realized it was her own voice she was hearing, what little voice she could form through the gag.

Her body trembled at a fourth and fifth strike. Fear and adrenaline coursed through her body, and Angela moaned. Embarrassment competed with fear, embarrassment at being naked and vulnerable, and at the realization her body was responding to his actions, that she could no longer control herself, with each lash from the belt arousal grew; fear as the realization dawned on her, not rationally but in some deep, visceral way, that she was helpless and alone, at the mercy of a stranger who clearly had painful intentions for her.

Then it all went away, replaced by the hard sensation of ice, first against her right nipple, then her left. Angela cried out at the cold, her body jerking, but the sound was muffled, and she moved little, with her arms stretched overhead, wrists bound, snuggly held in place by…by what she wasn’t sure, with her vision nothing more than blackness behind a blindfold.

She turned her body away from the cold as much as she could, and Angela felt another sharp sting of leather across her buttocks.

“You will stand still.”

The voice, little more than a whisper, was firm and even. No anger, no frustration, just a simple command.

Again the ice, but Angela held her footing, though her body trembled in spite of her attempt at remaining perfectly still. The cold pressed against her, hard, and then she felt the ice slipping around the nipple, making larger and larger circles outward, spiraling across her breasts.

As suddenly as the ice had come, it was gone. In its place she felt his lips...kissing her right nipple, gently at first, ever so softly. A mix of sensations rolled through her body – the air against her left nipple, still wet from the ice, almost stinging cold, while his kisses brought warmth to her right nipple. Despite the embarrassment, the fear, Angela felt herself growing wetter than she could ever remember as his hands caressed her hips. She moaned, instinctively arched her hips forward and felt teeth clamp down on her nipple. …


As you read the novel, you see that Angela finds her new-found master has a control over her, an ability to make her crave his touch, his kiss, his discipline, to be bound and helpless at his mercy. Sensations unlike any she has ever felt take hold of her body, her mind, and then the unthinkable happens.

She is called to the scene of a murder, where she finds a woman bound, clearly having been tortured in ways similar to what Mr. Tanner had done to her, so much so as to seem a copy of what she experienced.

Angela is chief detective of the Moose Creek, N.C., police department, the first woman to have ever reached that lofty status. She did it with hard work, uncompromising commitment to the job, and an instinctive ability to ferret out what the bad guys are doing.

Now those instincts tell Angela that her newfound love is behind the murder, while her emotions tell her differently. And her cravings are so strong it may not matter, because she finds herself back in his clutches, unable to resist, even as the danger to her own life ratchets up.

LETHAL OBSESSION is a novel of erotica, BDSM, suspense and danger. And it will leave you breathless, craving more.

LETHAL OBSESSION can be found at here for download to your Kindle or right here for download to your Nook.

LETHAL OBSESSION might be a little different than what you're used to reading, but at its heart the story is one of suspense and lust, desire and, as the name implies, obsession. Check it out.

Want a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card, free fiction, and more? Join Shandra's LETHAL OBSESSION Facebook Blog Tour.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lessons from the Walking Dead: Good vs. Evil?

I’m not big on watching television. Outside of some sports (NOTHING beats the NCAA basketball season and March Madness), I don’t watch a lot of TV shows.

One show I do watch, as do most of the people in my social circles, is The Walking Dead. Over the past two episodes something has struck me, and being a writer this is the only way I know to share.

I think sometimes in life there is little difference between good and evil, and I believe The Walking Dead shows that, in many cases, the difference is only a matter of perspective.

Let’s take a look at Rick Grimes, leader of our little band of survivors in The Walking Dead. These are people we’ve watched come together and persevere through the zombie apocalypse. They’ve managed to survive, to even find a safe haven of sorts, despite this worldwide epidemic that seems to have claimed most of humanity. They’ve watched their own family and friends fall victim. They’ve endured what few could survive.

Our good buddy Rick has taken on the mantle of leadership. He’s put his life on the line numerous times, he’s shouldered the constant worry of ensuring all are safe, and when they found Sophia, the little girl they had been spent months searching for, had been turned to a zombie, Rick is the one who put a bullet in her head because he knew the trauma of doing so would be too much for anyone else to bear. Quite frankly without his leadership my guess is everyone in his group would be dead by now.

And he’s managed to do so while holding on to some vestige of his moral code – you never leave your folks behind, there are certain rights that are always right, certain wrongs that are always wrong.

A stand-up guy.

Then we have the governor, the man who leads Woodbury. He’s evil. He keeps disembodied heads from his victims – zombies and regular folks – stored in tanks in his private bedroom for his own personal viewing pleasure. He led his men in an ambush where they killed a half dozen or so soldiers and stole their equipment. He assigned one of his men to assassinate Michonne once she chose to leave Woodbury and strike out on her own. And when they captured two of Rick’s people – Maggie and Glenn – the governor let one of his thugs tie Glenn to a chair and then beat the living-crap out of him before letting a zombie loose on the bound prisoner. Then the governor assaulted, and threatened to rape, Maggie.

A true, in-the-flesh bad dude.

But is there really that much difference between Rick and the governor?

Rick’s a good guy, but he’s done some horrible things along the way. When he, Glenn and Hershel encountered a few strangers in an empty bar, Rick shot them down with the icy cold calculation of a serial killer or a gunman in the old West. While his wife withered away emotionally, starving for some sort of comfort from Rick while she carried their baby, he would barely acknowledge her existence. And when it became apparent he and Shane could no longer co-exist in the group, and that Shane was setting Rick up to kill him, Rick went along with Shane’s plan until forced into a fatal confrontation with his former best friend, rather than less violently banishing Shane to go out on his own.

The governor, by contrast, has created an oasis for nearly 100 people, a village where they can live peacefully, protected from the zombies. He allows newcomers to take up residence in the village, provided they do so in small enough numbers as to not pose a threat to the village. And, through the course of the series, we’ve learned the governor has an undying love for his daughter, the sort of all-encompassing devotion only a parent can truly understand. While his little girl has been turned into a zombie, he has kept her there, hidden away but separated from others to keep the rest of the village safe, supporting research into curing the zombie virus, mostly driven by this love.

You might say Rick’s evils, if you want to call some of his acts by that label, are driven by his desire to keep the group safe, that everything he’s done is consistent with his role as group leader, and even the bad stuff is okay when viewed in that light.

I would argue the same for the governor. Virtually everything he’s done can be construed as necessary, or at least likely necessary, to protect the town, to keep its people safe, and to one day bring his daughter back from her zombie state.

Does he take a little more dark pleasure in inflicting pain or retribution on others? Sure, but then again Rick seemed to take some sort of perverse satisfaction in the emotional pounding he inflicted on his own wife, day after day, until she was dead.

Do we view Rick as good only because the show’s creators and producers have shown him to us in that light, and we see the governor as evil, again, only because of the way the show has present him to us.

At their core, is there really a difference between good and evil, other than perspective?

I'm curious to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below and tell me what you think.

Check out my own zombie tale, where you really can't tell the good guys from the bad, for just 99 cents. Summer's End. Again, just 99 cents!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Looking for some excitement in your reading?

I want to introduce you to a couple of writers today – not a long, drawn out review of their work, just a quick little intro to Russell Blake and Kate Aaron.

For those of you who have wondered about indie publishing, or the idea of independent publishing vs. going the traditional route (meaning trying to get an agent, trying to find a publisher, waiting three decades for an answer), Russell is an example of someone who’s done it both ways.

As a successful writer who had already gone the traditional route, he changed course a bit and starting publishing his own work. While I’ve never asked him this point-blank, I believe from various discussions and posts I’ve seen him make, Russell has never really looked back.

The second writer is Kate Aaron, another person who has met with success through indie publishing. One of the things I learned about Kate early on after meeting her online is that she has an incredible amount of knowledge regarding ways to market your work and to utilize every tool to give a published work a chance to find readers.

I’m not talking about some magic formula to get everyone on Twitter or Facebook to suddenly notice your work, but such attention to detail regarding how you list your book, ways to fill in book blurbs and the like.

So, you’re sitting there and saying “great, they know about indie publishing, what’s that got to do with ME?”

I’ll tell you. Above all else, Russell and Kate can tell a story. They can write. If you're looking for well-written, entertaining work, then you need to learn a little more about Russell and Kate.

Russell can take you on a thrilling no-holds-barred ride in espionage and spy works, while Kate can embrace you in the world of gay romance – and some dark vampire works as well.

Maybe those genres aren’t to your liking, and if not okay. But if so, then I really don’t think you can go wrong checking out work by Russell or Kate.

And you can start right now, with Russell’s JET or Kate’s What he Wants.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A couple of writers whose work you should read

One of the things I hope to do with my blog this year is not only let you continue to get to know me and my writing, but introduce you all to some other wonderful writers I know. Some weeks I’ll do interviews, others I’ll simply post a quick bit on them, with links to their blogs, books, and other interviews with them on the web.

There’s no better place for me to start than with two good folks who are exceptional writers and story tellers and who have really stepped out there in the world of indie publishing before it was hot, blazing the way for the rest of us. That’s not only good for other writers hoping to follow their lead, but it’s great for readers because that opens up a whole new world of opportunities for their enjoyment.

Now, without further ado, Bobbi Holmes and Nick Russell:

Bobbi Holmes (who sometimes writes under the pen name Anna J. McIntyre) pens romance -- sometimes sweet tales of love, sometimes stories that are a little more explicit, but always ones that go deeper than traditional romance novels.

Here’s a bit on her most recent saga, The Coulson Series:

After losing her beloved husband in a car accident, Alexandra is left to raise her teenage son alone. Coming to terms with life as a single mother is difficult enough, yet now she must face the sins of her past when Garret Coulson returns to town.

Grandson of the town's founder, the wealthy and powerful Garret Coulson fell in love with another man's wife, resulting in a self-imposed exile. With that man dead, Garret can return to claim what should have been his.

For ten years, Alexandra has kept the secret of her infidelity. The fact she is now a widow does not make that secret any less painful to reveal. Some secrets have the power to shatter lives - yet sometimes they heal hearts.

An adult love story. Contains explicit mature content.

That’s her work. You can find out more about Bobbi at her personal blog Mid-Journey, her Anna J. McIntyre blog here, and at her Facebook page, or by checking out a neat interview Suzie O’Connell did with her at Suzie’s blog.


Nick Russell is an old newspaper guy, kinda like me (except I’m not old, despite what my kids and Nick keep saying), so I have a natural affinity for his work.

One of his latest novels is Big Lake, and here’s a bit about that work:

When an armored car hijacking leaves two men dead, Arizona Sheriff Jim Weber takes the crime personally, because one of the dead men is his brother-in-law. His hunt for the killers leads him into a world of sordid sex, deceit, and violence, with a suspect list that includes jilted women, a family of anti-government survivalists, and the beautiful wife of the richest man in town.

With a plot that has more twists and turns than an Arizona mountain road, a cast of characters you won’t soon forget, and a shocking ending that shakes the town of Big Lake to its very foundation, this first book in the Big Lake series will keep you turning pages to the very end!

One reviewer has referred to the Big Lake mystery series as “Mayberry Meets Twin Peaks.” It’s a combination of humor and intrigue that launched author Nick Russell’s first Big Lake book into Amazon’s 100 Top Paid Kindle books for over 78 days!

You can learn more about Nick at his Amazon author’s page and his Facebook page.

I hope you’ll check out work by both Bobbi and Nick. If you enjoy compelling, well-written fiction, you won’t be disappointed.